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Holimont Marks a Half-Century of Skiing

by Jeff Cole

The new chairlift currently being installed in honor of HoliMont’s upcoming 50th anniversary exemplifies one of many changes for the ski area as its monumental winter season approaches.

This winter season will mark a half-century of business for HoliMont and in honor of the historic occasion, the ski area has been working all summer on installing its first high-speed detachable quad chairlift. The addition will replace the old Exhibition chairlift and will be dubbed “The Exhibition Express,” according to Dash Hegeman, marketing director for Holimont.

“This upgrade was one that the majority of the HoliMont membership wanted to see happen and the membership is looking forward to experiencing the final product. With the upgrade of this lift, members and guests will be able to get to the top and disperse throughout the mountain faster than ever, which ultimately will allow for more runs to be made and more fun to be had,” he said.

Hegeman said the price tag for the new chairlift was approximately $3.6 million and that HoliMont hopes to have the lift ready to use by the start of the Ellicottville Fall Festival. In addition, the ski area is spending slightly more than $700,000 on other infrastructure this year.

Dave Riley, general manager of HoliMont, said investing is key to being a successful business.

“We firmly believe that if you’re not investing in your business, and it doesn’t matter what the business is, you’re getting behind and we want to be one of the successful ski areas, we want to provide the best service and the best snow and the best experience, so this is all just part of that plan. We’re going to continue to invest and upgrade the facility,” he said.

Generating revenue in order to upgrade the resort’s infrastructure is just one of the goals of HoliMont’s upcoming $22 million multi-year expansion project, in which 31 lots ranging from a third-of-an-acre to half-an-acre in size will be auctioned off, starting in October.

“All of this real estate is excellent ski-in and ski-out (terrain) and we are going to build a new chalet over in the Sunset area, open up a new ski slope in the Sunset area, put in a new detachable in the Sunset area, relocate the beginner area into the Sunset area and a whole lot of other upgrades. This is a big project for us,” said Riley, who mentioned providing good ski-in and ski-out terrain to people as the other reason for the project.

Riley said HoliMont is basically developing property located west of the resort that individuals can purchase “to build their chalet or house on or whatever they want.” Sales of these lots will determine when the infrastructural changes, such as construction of the new chalet and the opening of a new ski slope, will happen.

“We’re going to be selling lots and using the revenue from the lots to roll back into the infrastructure of the club, but my guess is two or three years down the road you’ll be seeing the infrastructure parts of it going in,” Riley said.

As for more immediate changes, a new pole barn that will be used for storage was completed in July and the three old buildings behind the chalet were replaced with a new, 1,000-square-foot building that will be used for storing chairs and sheaves from the old Exhibition lift, as well as winter and summer equipment, such as snowmobiles and four-wheelers. Two more Snow Machines, Inc. (SMI) Super PoleCat land guns will allow HoliMont to manufacture snow quicker for its members and guests.

“We already use a number of SMI land guns so these will just be added to the fleet,” Hegeman said. “We presently have about 140 guns to make snow. These new guns are a portable ‘land gun,’ in that they are on a carriage, not a tower so there is no installation. We have 19 of this type already and the new ones will increase that type of snowmakers’ capacity. We generally use the portable guns for the Terrain Park, the half pipe, the boarder cross and air site. They will be placed wherever they are needed but will help get those areas open sooner.”

Last year, HoliMont came out with a new terrain park feature, a three-dimensional stegosaurus box ride, and this year it will unveil another new feature on the Half Moon slope.

“This is a surprise. It will not have a prehistoric them. That’s all the information we can divulge at this time,” Hegeman said.

HoliMont is also spending almost $30,000 in capital to support its adaptive ski program, which helps to get both children and adults with various handicaps out on the slopes and enjoying snow sports. The money will go to an assortment of projects that will help to better serve the program, including the addition of a wheelchair lift outside the ski school building, which will become even more handicap-accessible as a result.

Hegeman said that HoliMont is really looking forward to a strong 50th anniversary season. Last season’s weather, he said, was not ideal in terms of putting together a long and fun ski season, thought HoliMont members and guests were very positive about the product that was put out on the hill.

“With a little help from Mother Nature, we are hoping to be able to build on that positive vibe and provide everyone with pristine corduroy, a fun terrain park, and an overall on-hill experience that is second to none,” he said.

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